It’s not an easy decision to uproot your life and move to the other side of the world. The opportunity to experience life in another country ticks a lot of boxes – sense of adventure, international exposure, career opportunities, a global perspective for the kids. However a great deal of uncertainty also accompanies such a big change.
Before you can make a decision of this magnitude there are certain things you need to consider first.
Research your destination
The more research you do, the better informed you will be, and the fewer surprises you’ll face on arrival. Talk with people who are familiar with the country. There are also various risks you may need to consider so it’s important to investigate the political, environmental, cultural, social and economic landscape.
Ask yourself: Is this destination safe for my family? Is the area prone to any environmental risks such as earthquakes or tsunamis? What about crime?
A prior visit to the new city is vital to get a feel for the heartbeat at ground level. Naturally, a different city in a different country is going to be, well, different. You’ll need to be willing to accept and embrace change, so spend time travelling around the city to get a sense of what it would be like living there. Explore the area in terms of housing, schools, affordability, lifestyle and the overall vibe. Speak to people in the community and ask lots of questions.
Ask yourself: Can I imagine myself here? Does it “feel” right?
Crunch the numbers
Although your move may not be purely financially driven, you need to be clear about what it will cost you. You also need to be certain that you can actually afford to live reasonably well in the new city based on your income. There’s nothing worse than living in an exciting place and not being able to afford to do anything exciting. Research the housing market and look at the cost of homes, rental, rates, taxes and vacancy levels. A handy website for determining global pricing is www.globalpropertyguide.com
Ask yourself: Can I afford to live here and still save some money? Can I afford to travel and experience the country or region?
Moving and settling-in expenses
Shipping your belongings overseas can be very expensive. If you are moving for work, check with your employer to determine if they will cover your relocation costs and if they will provide you with an allowance upon arrival.
Keep in mind there are many expenses when setting up a new home, such as connecting utilities, temporary accommodation, and bond.
Ask yourself: Do you have sufficient funds to get settled in your new country, and start to enjoy it.
Consider the unique needs of your family. What do you value in a neighbourhood? Do you need to be close to schools? What is the quality of education? Often, poor education, poverty and crime levels are directly related.
If you’re travelling with children, find out about childcare facilities and schooling before you leave. Bear in mind the ages of your children; younger children are typically more adaptable to change than older children. Teenagers may find leaving their friends and social groups highly unsettling.
Weather and climate are also important factors to consider when deciding to move to a new city or country. Think about the kind of activities you enjoy and how the weather will affect those activities.
Ask yourself: Is education affordable and accessible? What amount of rain, cold or snow can I withstand? Conversely, can I tolerate weeks or months of intense heat?
If you are offered a job overseas, it’s vital you research the company thoroughly before accepting the offer, as the employment conditions may vary to what you’re used to. Check what currency you will be paid in. Carefully assess all the terms and conditions of your offer. Are airfares and residency permits covered by your employer? Health care, in particular, can be very expensive in some countries such as the USA.
Ask yourself: What will my work/life balance be? Will I be advancing my career by accepting this offer? What are the long-term benefits of working for this company?
Weigh up the pros and cons
Ultimately you must ask yourself what you have to gain or lose by relocating. Think about the long-term consequences of moving before you make the decision and keep in mind that if it doesn’t work out, you can always move back, although of course that may be expensive too.
Ask yourself: Will living and working in the new city provide me with better opportunities than my current situation?
Move because you want to
While relocating may offer adventure, financial gain or career advancement, ultimately the only measure should be because you want to, and not because you could or should. If you’re apprehensive or have doubts, it might not be right for you. It’s important to remember that just because you can do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it.
If you decide moving is right for you, being sufficiently prepared will make the transition less stressful and will enable you to adapt to your new environment and lifestyle more easily.
As yourself: Are you moving for the right reasons? Relocation can be a big risk, but risk can also deliver great rewards.